People prefer coronavirus contact tracing to be carried out by a combination of apps and humans, study shows

September 10, 2020

People prefer coronavirus contact tracing to be carried out by a combination of apps and humans, a new study shows.

The research shows people are more concerned about who runs the process than the risks of others having unauthorised access to their private information, or their data being stolen.

Most people who took part in the research were in favour of the NHS processing personal data rather than the Government or even a decentralised system that stores only minimal personal data.

A total of 41 per cent of those questioned wanted a mixture of an app and human contact during the tracing process, compared to 22 per cent who wanted it purely to be run via contact with another person and 37 per cent who wanted the process to only be digital.

The research was conducted by Laszlo Horvath, Susan Banducci and Oliver James from the University of Exeter during May and is published in the Journal of Experimental Political Science.

They ran an experiment on 1,504 people who were given information about two apps though a series of five pairings, with their properties relating to privacy and data security displayed randomly, and asked which they would prefer to use. In a second study, the academics also surveyed 809 people about their preferences for how apps should be run and designed.

The decentralised system of contact tracing, currently trialled in the UK, was chosen by participants with a 50 per cent probability, meaning this particular design didn't influence people's choice. However the probability of people choosing the app designed to work as part of a NHS-led centralised system was 57 per cent, meaning it was more popular, while 43 per cent of apps chosen were described as having data which would be stored on servers belonging to the UK government, making them less popular.

A randomly selected group of people were also informed about the risk of data breach issues, but this didn't have an impact on people's preferences.

Dr Horvath said: "We had thought people would prefer apps which were less intrusive and protected their privacy, for example not needing as much information about their location, but this wasn't the case. Our research shows people are supportive of taking part in the contact tracing process if needed. They are less concerned about the possibility of data breach problems than who their app is run by, and privacy didn't affect their preferences when they had a choice of apps."

Professor Banducci said: "Our research shows people are supportive of the NHS storing and using their personal information. Faith and trust in the NHS is high at the moment so it may motivate people to take part in the process if the Government involves the health service in its development and deployment. Trust in the provider of contact tracing will be crucial if it is to be used successfully to reduce the spread of infection."

Professor James said: "People who took part in this research preferred a balanced - human plus digital - approach to contract tracing. Privacy concerns were not as influential as we expected. Trust in the provider of the app is currently more important, something for the Government to remember as work on the UK's contact tracing system continues."
-end-


University of Exeter

Related Privacy Articles from Brightsurf:

Yale team finds way to protect genetic privacy in research
In a new report, a team of Yale scientists has developed a way to protect people's private genetic information while preserving the benefits of a free exchange of functional genomics data between researchers.

Researchers simulate privacy leaks in functional genomics studies
In a study publishing November 12 in the journal Cell, a team of investigators demonstrates that it's possible to de-identify raw functional genomics data to ensure patient privacy.

Some children at higher risk of privacy violations from digital apps
While federal privacy laws prohibit digital platforms from storing and sharing children's personal information, those rules aren't always enforced, researchers find.

COVID-19 symptom tracker ensures privacy during isolation
An online COVID-19 symptom tracking tool developed by researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center ensures a person's confidentiality while being able to actively monitor their symptoms.

New research reveals privacy risks of home security cameras
An international study has used data from a major home Internet Protocol (IP) security camera provider to evaluate potential privacy risks for users.

Researcher develops tool to protect children's online privacy
A University of Texas at Dallas study of 100 mobile apps for kids found that 72 violated a federal law aimed at protecting children's online privacy.

Do COVID-19 apps protect your privacy?
Many mobile apps that track the spread of COVID-19 ask for personal data but don't indicate the information will be secure.

COVID-19 contact tracing apps: 8 privacy questions governments should ask
Imperial experts have posed eight privacy questions governments should consider when developing coronavirus contact tracing apps.

New security system to revolutionise communications privacy
A new uncrackable security system created by researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the University of St Andrews and the Center for Unconventional Processes of Sciences (CUP Sciences) is set to revolutionize communications privacy.

Mayo Clinic studies patient privacy in MRI research
Though identifying data typically are removed from medical image files before they are shared for research, a Mayo Clinic study finds that this may not be enough to protect patient privacy.

Read More: Privacy News and Privacy Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.